Stephen Covey’s famous quote “Seek First to Understand, then seek to be understood” is much more than just a marketing meme, it is a prerequisite to meaningful communication.
Communication and understanding are the keys to democracy. Our democracy is on the verge of collapse because of the dogmatic and polarized nature of our respective echo chambers. Americans need to begin thinking again.
The demise of polite conversation:
Everything is political today. In California you can’t have a conversation that lasts more than 5 minutes without a “Trumpism” added. Doesn’t matter what the subject.
Casual comment: “I was thinking of going hiking next weekend.”
Response: “Great, better get all the hiking in we can before Trump sells all the trails.”
Casual comment: “I’ve been drinking Fenugreek tea, it seems to help with the hot flashes and hormones.”
Response: “Wow, maybe I’ll try that, I get hot flashes every time I hear Trump’s name.”
In groups of three or more these responses are usually followed by a hmmph, knowing smirks and head nodding. It’s like a secret handshake.
It’s a new age good ole’ boy club. It matters not how irrelevant or ridiculous the analogy.
The “offerer” of the “Trumpism” gets points and everyone gazes around the circle to be sure that everyone else agrees.
Woes to the friend that doesn’t nod – all eyes shall be upon them.
Is she one of “them”?
OMG, tell me it isn’t true!
Polite excuses are made as the conversation abruptly ends and everyone wonders away.
Perhaps you too have now concluded that I am “one of them” and will read no further. You would be wrong. This isn’t about sides this is about something new and exceptionally disturbing.
Trump is without a doubt the most controversial President we have ever had. Many people find him beyond reprehensible, but we have had many unpopular presidents in the past. I don’t remember any “Nixonisms”, only “tricky Dick” and references to Watergate. I don‘t remember any “Carterisms”, only jokes about his brother and Grenada. Or “Reagonisms”, only references to chimpanzees and Reagonomics.
How did we get here?
Once upon a time there was a strict journalistic code among news broadcasters regarding the reporting of events. Walter Cronkite never showed emotion. He only relayed facts. Censored or cherry picked perhaps, but not presented with the opinionated and emotional bias that has become common today. In fact, such a presentation would have been considered highly unethical and unprofessional.
I’m not a student of media history, but it seems to me that in the 1980’s the talking heads began their takeover. Maybe it had something to do with the competition that UHF and later cable brought to the scene.
Stroking the audience with a nod and wink to their particular bias isn’t new. Neither is the use of media for propaganda. Whatever your preferred news source, be it Fox, CNBC, MSNBC, Sky News, the Daily Show , YouTube or Facebook you are being subtly or not so subtly lead down a path to a specific conclusion and world view.
What is new is that people are internalizing these biases to the point of an inability to have a conversation with someone who does not share their view. It is becoming more virulent every day and with the midterms approaching we are now in hyper-space.”
Any lessor known source is now suspect. I’m not talking about obviously ridiculous sites or sources. I’m talking about sites with ethical reporting from informed sources that may or may not be in the mainstream or sanctioned by your respective social group.
Test this theory out for yourself. Post an opinion on your favorite Social Media you know will be controversial. When your friends respond that you are wrong, post a link to some authority. Use a legitimate source quoted in a post found on a lessor known site or a site that appears to oppose their own political views.
Shouldn’t take long to hear the screams of fake news. They likely won’t consider the information and won’t follow the link to the study. They will not use any critical thinking skills at all, they won’t even Google it themselves. Most will simply respond with their echo chamber’s party line. Doesn’t matter which camp, the result will be the same. Let me know how it goes.
Don’t be glib; don’t be arrogant; don’t promote good ole’ boy politics without thought or reason and don’t add “Trumpisms” to every conversation. The future of this country may depend on it